Why do Runners Run? Why do YOU run?


How often do you get asked the question, “Why do you Run?” Usually it is from a non-runner who does not understand why you take the time and energy to go out and run.  Often you hear the question on very hot or cold days, windy or rainy days, days where you ran very early or late at night, or after a long or hard run where you look exhausted.  The average non-runner just cannot seem to grasp why you do it, and normally it is asked in a way the really means, “Why are you so crazy and possessed that you would want to voluntarily put your body through that torturous exercise of running, and then repeat the process multiple times in the span of a week/month/year/years?”

Why the average non-runner does not understand what makes us run, it is a good question to ask yourself – Why do I run? What motivates me to go out there and run 1 mile, 5 miles, 10 miles or more?  What makes me want to repeat this process regardless of weather, regardless of sleep deprivation, or when I feel sick or sore?  What is it that drives me to run?

In talking with numerous runners it seems that runners run for two primary reasons: 1) personal, and 2) for a cause.

1) Personal Reasons We Run: Most runners have a very personal reason(s) for running, something that is important to them and for their own benefit. Typical responses include:

  1. To lose weight
  2. For other health reasons (i.e., family history of heart disease or diabetes)
  3. To be an example to my kids of an active lifestyle
  4. Spend time with my spouse/friends/family
  5. Helps me relax/relieve stress/get away from the business of life
  6. Enjoy nature
  7. Love to compete in races
  8. To prove to myself and others I can do this (x distance)
  9. The fun of the event (mud race, color race, Disney race, light race, etc.)
  10. So I can eat whatever I want (within reason)

For me, I got into running primarily because my son started running marathons and I thought it would be a fun father/son experience we could do together. My other son joined us and now a couple times a year the three of us will pick a destination race and make a long weekend of running the same event, usually a RunDisney half or full marathon. It is a great chance for us to bond and have a fun time together. My secondary, personal reason for running was to maintain an active and healthy lifestyle. While I have always been athletic and exercised multiple times a week, I found as I was getting older I was putting on a little weight and not quite in the same shape as before. In the past 3 years since I started running, I have lost about 30 pounds and am in some of the best shape of my life.

So what are your personal reasons for running?

2) For a Cause Reasons We Run: While all runners seem to have at least one personal reason for running, only some have “other focused” reasons for running. By other focused I am referring to a cause or charity that often does not benefit them directly – it benefits another person, a non-profit organization, a charity, a local team or community event, etc. While some will dedicate all their running to one cause or charity, many runners vary the causes they support during the course of a year or over multiple years. I highly recommend running for a cause as it provides each runner an extra reason, an extra incentive, an extra purpose for running. It increases the value you experience when you run and it helps motivate you on those difficult days. Examples of running for a cause might include:

  1. A local sports team trying to raise money to compete in a state championship
  2. A local school band trying to raise money for new uniforms
  3. A local hospital or national health association (ACC, ALS, AHA, etc.) raising money for a new treatment center, research and/or training programs
  4. A foundation raising money to assist families of patients with medical bills and expenses (i.e., pediatric cancer patients, HIV patients, patients needing a new kidney, etc.)
  5. A school or university raising funds to help low income families afford an education
  6. A community group raising funds for a family who lost their home to flooding or a fire
  7. An animal shelter raising funds for the care and adoption of pets
  8. A religious organization raising funds for water, food, shelter, clothing and/or education in 3rd world countries
  9. A Veteran’s group raising funds for wounded warriors and their families

The list of causes and charity organizations is long and can include thousands of more examples, and the great thing is there are planned running/walking events (and biking, swimming, golfing, etc.) for most all of these. You just have to look in your local paper, look for postings at your local library, grocery or drug store, or do an online search to find a charity race for a cause you would like to support.  There are many websites that list upcoming events by type, by distance, by date and/or by location to make them easy to find.  There are even virtual events for a cause, where you can run/walk a 5k, 10k or half marathon at a time and location that works for you, while still supporting a charity.  And if you don’t find an event that supports a cause you are particularly interested in supporting, you can always consider setting up your own fundraiser for a cause and charity organization you are passionate about.

In addition to finding an event that is established by a charity for a cause, and knowing that a portion of your registration will help support that cause, I encourage you to go the extra mile and raise additional funds for the causes you are supporting. Some events have the capability of allowing you to set up a donation page where friends and family can support your effort by contributing on your behalf to the cause. Even if the event does not provide an organized way of setting up a donation page, there are online services that allow you to set this up on your own for free. 

So what are the reasons that make you run? What are your personal reasons and, just as if not more importantly, what are your “For a Cause” reasons?  Think about it and write down all the reasons you run.  You should keep a list and update it from time to time as this will keep you more motivated and make it easier to get out and run.  It will give you more value and self worth as a result of your running.  And it will benefit not only yourself, but provide benefit to others in need.

Let us hear the reasons you run, both your “personal” and “for a cause” reasons? Share them here and we will update our lists of reasons on the website.